Category Archives: Podcasts

2023 AKTIV Against Cancer Benefit To Honor The Philanthropic Work Of The New York Road Runners

AKTIV Against Cancer, the organization co-founded by legendary runner Grete Waitz, and Helle Aanesen, announced today that New York Road Runners and the Exercise Oncology Team at Memorial Sloan Kettering will be this years honorees with the latter receiving the Gabe Grunewald Inspiration Award. This year will be the ninth annual awards luncheon, which will take place at the New York Athletic Club on Tuesday, November 7, the Tuesday following this year’s 2023 TCS New York City Marathon. The event has generated over $400,000 in donations in the first eight years it has been held. This year’s event will be hosted by Michele Yu, author and host of New York 1 News.

“The work that the New York Road Runners has done for causes large and small is nothing short of amazing, as we are proud to recognize the organization, from its founder the late Fred Lebow to the current leadership for all they do to help raise awareness and funds for literally thousands of people who never run a race,” Aanesen said. “Second but not least we are proud to honor the work that Dr. lee Jones and his team in Exercise Oncology have done at Memorial Sloan Kettering as they wrap up this critical stage of research and implementation. Without their vision, leadership and education the value of exercise as a vital part of cancer recovery may never have been realized.”

“It is an honor to accept this award on behalf of everyone past and present in at New York Road Runners,” said Rob Simmelkjaer, CEO. “The spirit and soul of one of our greatest champions, Grete Waitz, lives on in the terrific work Helle and AKTIV Against Cancer continue to do, and we are proud to be recognized amongst such an outstanding list of honorees past and present. Our work supporting the hundreds of causes tied to our events each year continues on, with a very bright future ahead.”

“This event has always been one of the highlights of our year, since the work we do ties directly to the goal and mission of AKTIV Against Cancer,” Dr. Jones added. “It has been a privilege to work so closely with Helle and the organization since we launched this project, and to see the tangible results of the work has been amazingly fulfilling, not just for our staff and volunteers but for the patients and their families and friends who are better in every way because of the discoveries we have made. It is a truly life changing effort.”

Since its inception in 2006, the TCS New York City Marathon Official Charity Partner Program has raised more than $460 million for over 1,000 worthy non-profit organizations across the globe.

Previous honorees of this award include: adidas and Chaunté Lowe (2022), Cycle For Survival co-founder Dave Linn (2021), Shannon Miller (2020) Chip and Joanna Gaines, Jeff Rochford and Aubrey Barr (2019) Dr. Jordan Metzl & Kikkan Randall (2018), The Rudin Family & the late Gabriel Grunewald (2017), Meb Keflezighi (2016), and Mary Wittenberg (2015).

For more information about AKTIV Against Cancer please visit

National Lacrosse League and FanCompass Announce Multi-Year Strategic Partnership

The National Lacrosse League (@NLL), the largest and most successful professional lacrosse property in the world, today announced a multi-year partnership with FanCompass to bring an upgraded and interactive user experience for NLL partners and fans everywhere.

“The partnership officially launches our digital transformation, as FanCompass will drive the league’s ability to deliver best-in-class fan platforms and branded online experiences starting with the upcoming season,” said Kurt Hunzeker, the NLL’s Executive Vice President of Commercial Operations. “FanCompass will make it easier and more efficient for the NLL and its partners on every level to understand and customize our collective ties to the NLL’s youthful and digitally savvy fan base as we move to expand, accelerate, and amplify our fan engagement initiatives.”

“Kurt’s vision powered by the full support and backing from their ownership group understand the value and demand for a next-level digital fan experience and the data it provides,” said Jamie Pardi, FanCompass Co-Founder and CEO. “The NLL is making its mark on the industry with this digital transformation and we are excited to be a part of it.”

For more than a decade, FanCompass has been a leading provider of digital fan engagement solutions in the global sports industry. Its platform, FC CORE, offers a suite of digital tools for engaging fans, capturing valuable data, and generating digital sponsorship opportunities.

The NLL will roll out the FC CORE platform across the entire NLL portfolio of teams with a full-service league dashboard for customizable league-wide campaigns. FanCompass had previously been working with two NLL clubs, the Georgia Swarm and Rochester Knighthawks, and the successful work there helped lead to this league-wide partnership.

The NLL will hold its 2023 Draft on September 16 in Oakville, Ontario, and training camps will open the weekend of October 28-29. The 2023-24 season will commence with NLL Faceoff Weekend on December 1-2. The full schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.

National Lacrosse League Announces Playoff Format and Playoff Schedule For 2022-23 Season

The National Lacrosse League (@NLL), the world’s largest and most successful professional lacrosse league, today announced its eight-team playoff format for the 2022-23 season. The format will again feature the top four teams from the East Conference and top three from the West Conference, plus a “wild card” entry with the best record between the fourth-place team in the West standings and the fifth-place finisher in the East. This “wild card” will play in the West Conference side of the bracket as the fourth seed.

The first round of the 2023 NLL Playoffs, beginning the weekend of May 5-7, will be single elimination, while the Conference Finals and NLL Finals will each be a best-of-three series. Game 1 and 2 of the NLL Finals will be played during Memorial Day Weekend, while Game 3 of the NLL Finals, if necessary, is scheduled for the weekend of June 2-4.

“The NLL will have a regular season that every fan and every team in any sport desires, one where every regular season game will have meaning and relevance, “said NLL Commissioner Brett Frood. “We saw last year how the new playoff system drove interest and excitement down the stretch and are confident that this format will again maintain that season-long momentum, with the intensity reaching a crescendo with our playoffs.”

The full NLL regular season schedule, which begins this Friday when the Philadelphia Wings take on the Halifax Thunderbirds on TSN, ESPNews and ESPN+ at 6pm ET, is available at All games will be carried on ESPN+, and the TSN app.

About the National Lacrosse League

The National Lacrosse League (NLL) is North America’s premier professional lacrosse league. Founded in 1986, the NLL ranks third in average attendance for pro indoor sports worldwide, behind only the NHL and NBA. The League is comprised of 15 franchises across the United States and Canada: Albany FireWolves, Buffalo Bandits, Calgary Roughnecks, Colorado Mammoth, Georgia Swarm, Halifax Thunderbirds, Las Vegas Desert Dogs, New York Riptide, Panther City Lacrosse Club (TX), Philadelphia Wings, Rochester Knighthawks, San Diego Seals, Saskatchewan Rush, Toronto Rock, and Vancouver Warriors.

For the latest scores and developments in the National Lacrosse League, please visit: and find the NLL on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sports Gambling Podcast Network Uses Short-Form Video To The Max

Sports Gambling Podcast Network’s (SGPN) latest offering of short-form content on YouTube has grown seven-fold over the last three months and is tracking to hit 750,000 views before the end of the year, outpacing industry growth metrics significantly as the college football season heads down the stretch and pro football hits the midpoint of its season.

The sports wagering industry’s leading independent provider of free analysis and picks, SGPN registered a record-breaking September and continues to see growth across multiple platforms. With over 6,350 subscribers on YouTube and over 100,000 followers over multiple platforms, SGPN has seen the number of views of shortform videos on YouTube alone go from 33,500 in August to over 208,700 in October.

A recent Instagram story featuring SGPN co-hosts and co-founders Sean Green and Ryan Kramer discussing Tom Brady’s recent struggles off the field is set to hit 1 million views alone.

Its model of sophisticated, entertaining, no-cost content resonates strongly with the growing audience of sports fans interested in the legal wagering boom sweeping the United States. Another boost is expected when the World Cup in Qatar begins Sunday, driving audience to The World Cup Gambling Podcast, which hit the airwaves on November 13. It provides users with in-depth wagering and picks around the biggest sporting event in soccer and one of the biggest in the world.

A key component of the SGPN success is the community they’ve created by offering completely free content spanning the full scope of bettable sports. Many SGPN competitors are designed to drive visitors to sign up for wagering accounts at various sportsbook websites, a revenue-generating approach that is transaction-oriented as opposed to relationship-oriented. The evidence that it is working is the dramatic audience growth on multiple platforms.

“Our sponsors and advertisers invest in our audience size and then find additional value in the response from our followers, who connect their products favorably to SGPN and its unbeatable value proposition of great information and guidance at no cost,” said Sean Green, co-founder and CEO who is now in his second decade with the company.

“We’ve found the short-form video to be a sweet spot because it enables us to provide the sports gambling content in an efficiently entertaining way as we cover sports news as it relates to betting the games,” added Ryan Kramer, co-founder of SGPN and an analytics geek in the art of picking winners. “This time of year is crazy with all the action. We’re proud of the depth and frequency of the content we produce.”

The news of the growth on YouTube comes one month after SGPN set a company record of 1.1 million downloads in September. That is more than twice (2.44x) the number of downloads experienced in September of 2021. For 2022, SGPN has seen over 6.5 million downloads from fans, already surpassing last year’s company record of three million downloads.

SGPN’s new World Cup podcast is hosted by Malcolm Bamford, who is advancing the event now and will break down game winners and totals with other insights once the competition begins. He’ll also dive into other wagering options that will help bettors find some easy money in the blockbuster international spectacle that is slated for major cover here in the United States, continuing through the championship game on Sunday, Dec. 18.

According to the American Gaming Association’s inaugural survey on World Cup wagering, an estimated 20.5 million American adults plan to bet a total of $1.8 billion on the upcoming World Cup, adding that 72 percent of bettors plan to place traditional bets either online, with a bookie or at a physical sportsbook.

Verdict In: Judge’s 62nd Largest Topps NOW Run Ever

Aaron Judge’s A.L. record setting home run display was not just a boon to the Yankees — and his impending free agency. It was also a big hit with collectors, as the Topps NOW card depicting his historic 62nd blast of the season enticed fans to purchase 91,685 of the base card, the most ever in the seven-year history of Topps NOW, which depicts the greatest moments and milestones from Major League Baseball almost as soon as they happen, with physical cards limited to the number ordered within 48 hours of issue.

And it wasn’t just the final bomb that appealed to fans as they bore witness to greatness: home runs #61 (29,523) and 60 (21,490) and two base cards shared with former league homer champs Roger Maris (19,741) and Babe Ruth (13,804) set the precedent, rounding out five of the top six sellers of the 2022 season. Albert Pujols’s 700th career shot (third most, 28,898) was the only other card to top 10,000 in sales.

In all, the five top Judge cards accounted for a total of 176,243 cards issued, more than half of all the base cards (330,699) produced through the regular season (112 individual cards).

Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani (qualifying as pitcher and hitter, 7th, 7331 cards; and reaching 200K strikeouts, 10th, 4381), the Mets’ Francisco Alvarez (debut, 8th, 6005) and Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez (sets rookie HR record, 9th, 5449) rounded out the top 10 for 2022.

Fans can continue to purchase Topps NOW cards throughout the MLB playoffs at

2022 Top Ten

  1. Aaron Judge, 62nd home run, 91,685
  2. Aaron Judge, 61st home run,29,523
  3. Albert Pujols, 700th career home run, 28,898
  4. Aaron Judge, 60th home run, 21,490
  5. Aaron Judge and Roger Maris, 61 home runs, 19,741
  6. Aaron Judge and Babe Ruth, 60 home runs, 13,804
  7. Shohei Ohtani, qualifying as pitcher and hitter, 7331
  8. Francisco Alvarez, debut, 6005
  9. Julio Rodriguez, sets rookie HR recorded, 5449
  10. Shohei Ohtani, 200K strikeouts, 4381

Sports Interaction Becomes National Lacrosse League’s Official Sports Betting Partner In Canada

The National Lacrosse League (@NLL), the largest and most successful professional lacrosse property in the world, announced a partnership with Sports Interaction as the official sports betting partner in Canada. The deal will launch today on NLL broadcasts on TSN throughout Canada.

“We have been developing the NLL Sports Betting platform as a new line of business throughout the last 20 months and betting partners are a key part of the platform. We are excited and honored to bring back a renewed relationship with Sports Interaction that will take our collective marketing efforts to a new level and grow our respective businesses through an engagement platform for our fans as our Official Canadian Sports Betting Partner,” said NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz. “We know this partnership will continue to grow our engagement with casual and diehard fans of the NLL, as well as attract new fans who enjoy and have become fans of the high voltage action and fast pace of the NLL game.”

“Lacrosse is part of our heritage and a sport very close to our hearts. For centuries, Mohawks have bet on lacrosse games and we are proud to partner with The NLL and its fans because they share our passion and epitomize everything that is great about the game.” said Dean Montour, CEO of Mohawk Online, operators of

Sports Interaction will be prominently involved in TSN’s NLL broadcasts by entitling the League’s Game of the Week. These select games will be aired across TSN’s linear channels throughout the regular season. Sports Interaction will also receive exposure in arena for NLL games in Canada, and the partnership will be supported on all NLL social channels. Integrations will begin with this weekend’s games.

For the most up to date information and breaking news, sign up for the NLL newsletter at Also follow Deputy Commissioner Jessica Berman and Commissioner Sakiewicz on Twitter @JessicaBerman1 and @NLLcommish, respectively.

SGPN Outpaces Industry Growth Projections With Almost 3 Million Downloads In 2021

Sports Gambling Podcast Network (SGPN), the only major independent sports wagering media network that places a premium on entertainment value and free user content, will clobber industry growth projections with a 30 per cent year-over-year increase in total downloads during the course of 2021.

According to the podcast analytics website MegaphoneSGPN has amassed a total of 2,848,068* downloads since January, led by the popular Sports Gambling Podcast, which focuses on the most prominent games and issues of the day with selections, analysis and opinions of co-founders and rising stars Sean Green and Ryan Kramer.  SGPN expects to hit three million downloads by the end of the year.

SGPN launched eight new podcast feeds this year and has seen marked growth in unique visitors, YouTube views and podcast audiences thanks in part to its affiliation with the BlueWire Podcasts distribution network.  SGPN’s 30 per cent growth over 2020 compares favorably to the industry-wide podcast consumption growth of 17 per cent reported by prominent media research company Edison Research of Somerville, NJ. 

Unlike the clutter of football- and basketball-specific podcasts and offerings that leverage the prominence of legacy brand network- or betting house-affiliated offerings, SGPN has grown organically and now provides personalities and content from some 50 expert contributors covering all aspects of 10-plus sports, including international soccer, boxing/MMA and fantasy sports.

“The industry battle for eyeballs and listeners in our space is as fierce as it is among the wagering houses who spend millions of dollars to acquire account deposits,” stated Green, the Philadelphia area native now working out of his SGPN Studios in Los Angeles.  “SGPN is free.  We’re happy to serve the growing number of sports wagering enthusiasts at no cost with sophisticated picks, analysis, commentary and deep-dive detail.  Now, our growth shows that it is appreciated and we’re ready to build on that success using our tried-and-true formula heading into 2022, when we’ll be celebrating our 10th anniversary.”   Green provides NFL picks on a weekly basis for Burb Media in Philadelphia and is a favored sportstalk radio guest on shows around the country.   

Also a working stand-up comic in the Los Angeles region, Green used his immersive knowledge to win $200,000 in a DraftKings Daily Fantasy Football (DFS) competition in 2017, enabling him to enhance the SGPN facilities and branding initiatives.  The following year, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) was struck down by the courts and the current blizzard of growth ensued.  Still, fewer than half of the states have legalized sports wagering, so the industry has tremendous expansion ahead, a huge positive for SGPN and other established players.

cover image: Sean Green, Ryan Kramer (SGPN Photo)

SGPN’s Colby Dant Records 130 Podcasts Previewing Every FBS College Football Team

In an unprecedented commitment to college football bettors across America, Sports Gambling Podcast Network (SGPN) college gridiron expert Colby Dant is providing a pre-season forecast on every FBS football team, including recommendations on over/under regular season win total wagers for all.

The daunting initiative is underway with the podcast and transcription content available at, home of the only independently owned and operated sports gambling media network that places a premium on entertainment value. The predictive podcasts are most readily available on the SGPN app, downloadable at Apple’s App Store, the Google Play Store, and from

In concise but detailed 20-minute podcasts, Dant also provides a rationale for all predictions, requiring a time-consuming level of immersion, his fulltime job with SGPN since 2017.

Colby Dant

SGPN, consistently ranked among the top football podcasts in America by, will also track and report the results of Dant’s prognostications in a service to its audiences that is unusual in the burgeoning sports wagering advice/analysis industry. Dant is one of over 45 contributors covering sports and entertainment for SGPN platforms.

“I’m definitely going above and beyond with this project, but college football is the one sport for which it is actually necessary,” stated Dant, a veteran sports wagering expert who has handicapped every Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) game (over 1,500) since 2017. “The sport generates an emotional attachment among its fans that is hyper-local, regional, sectional and national. The time is right for this deepest of dives into the entire FBS. Full schedules are back, fans are returning and interest is spiking with the season just weeks away. Our SGPN audiences and all college football fans want it and deserve it.”

Among Dant’s most assertive recommendations is Minnesota over 6.5 wins and North Carolina under 9.5 wins. The podcasts offer amusing takes on the traditions and history of the college programs with comparative references to rival teams and conferences in conjunction with the SGPN style of combining entertaining content with free, money-making predictions for sports bettors.

Other offerings on the Dant podcasts include suggestions that Texas A&M is overrated, and that Big 12 officials should consider thinking outside the box and grabbing Deion Sanders’ Jackson State team and Eddie George’s Tennessee State team, plus the transfer portal impact on both high-major and mid-major programs.

The podcast series, available under the “College Football Experience” name on the SGPN website and the SGPN App, is more than half complete with the remaining podcasts on track for posting over the next three weeks.

FanDuel Casino Now Available in NJ, PA, MI and WV

FanDuel Group is expanding its FanDuel Casino offerings in New Jersey and Michigan. FanDuel Group announced today the official launch of its FanDuel branded, standalone FanDuel Casino product in New Jersey on iOSAndroid and desktop. In Michigan, FanDuel Casino customers can now enjoy live dealer games from Evolution.  

FanDuel Casino was initially offered exclusively within the FanDuel Sportsbook app in New Jersey. With the addition of the standalone FanDuel Casino product, customers living in, or visiting, New Jersey now have a dedicated online casino experience that is secure, legal and fully regulated. The standalone FanDuel Casino app will feature casino game staples like blackjack, roulette, video poker and a multitude of recognizable slots and fan-favorite games from the casino floor. Players will receive the same customer support, convenience, safety and security that customers have come to expect from FanDuel, while making it secure and simple for customers to cash out winnings. FanDuel Casino will still be available within the FanDuel Sportsbook app, and new casino players can either signup for a Casino account or use their existing FanDuel Fantasy or Sportsbook account to log in and play. New FanDuel Casino players can play their first day risk-free up to $1,000.

FanDuel Casino is also expanding in Michigan. FanDuel Casino has added live dealer blackjack, roulette and baccarat games for customers living in, and visiting, the state of Michigan. The live casino games launched this past Thursday, July 22, after approval from the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Live dealer casino games give players the social interaction of a casino with the convenience of playing from home.

FanDuel Casino is available today on iOSAndroid and desktop in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia.  

SGPN App Debuts Via Sports Gambling Podcast Network

Sports Gambling Podcast Network™ has taken the next step in providing easy access to its expanding array of assets and content by making available the app “SGPN” beginning this month.

The new, completely free, SGPN app will include content for sports wagerers on the move from over 45 SGPN writers and personalities plus exclusive access to multiple, free audience contests. The SGPN app is available on all devices and is downloadable at Apple’s App Store, the Google Play Store, and from SGPN is the only independently-owned and operated sports gambling media network that places a premium on entertainment value.

“Our industry is exploding. Our followers have been asking for an app and we’re happy we’re able to deliver. The SGPN app is the perfect tool for the second screen sports gambling experience,” stated Sean Green, SGPN co-founder, CEO and co-host of the popular Sports Gambling Podcast. “So many sports gambling networks charge for their content, but all our picks, posts and podcasts are free, so naturally the app is free as well.” Green and co-founder Ryan Kramer launched SGPN in 2011 and have since amassed a large audience, consistently ranking amongst the top sports-related offerings on the digital landscape.

The first bonus for all app downloaders is an NBA playoffs contest with a $1,000 winner-take-all cash prize. Open until June 18, $1,000 NBA Playoffs Contest entrants need only identify the 2021 NBA champion, the number of games to be played in the championship series only, and the total number of points scored in those games.

The winner will be the contestant who answers both of the first two questions correctly and is then closest in the point total prediction, which is wildly variable because of all the variable factors. The only requirement for entry into the contest is to have downloaded the app. “We specialize in simplicity,” said Green who will oversee the awarding of $20,000 in free contests per year on the app. “The app is easy to use and our contests are even easier.”

Winnie Wong

Winnie Wong has been with Sands China for almost six years. Prior to that, she was CEO of the Guandong Group, a junket operator in Macau. At Sands China, she has been the vice president of corporate communications and vice president of operations for Sands Cotai Central. In her most recent role as chief responsible gaming officer, Wong oversees an aspect of supreme importance to the company and the government of Macau.

Wong spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the Gambling and Risk Taking Conference (the “Eadington Conference”) in May.

GGB: You were recently appointed to a new role at Sands China, as head of the responsible gaming efforts there. Why is that such an important issue for your company and the officials in Macau?

Winnie Wong: Macau sees responsible gaming as very important. The Macau government has a committee that is made up of scholars, researchers, public officials—not only regulators, but also the social welfare bureau. They have regular meetings and give the casino operators guidelines and regulations to follow. They really see responsible gaming as all stakeholders’ responsibility—not just the government, not just the patrons themselves, but everyone who has a part to play in the industry.

Are these regulators and public officials educated about responsible gaming?

Yes, they do a lot of research, primary data collection, which is done by the local government for policy design purposes. At the same time, I do see them attending international conferences from time to time.

Las Vegas Sands has always had a very robust responsible gaming program. What kind of expertise did they bring to Macau?

In 2004, when my company opened its first casino—Sands Macau—we already had our own self-exclusion program. The Macau government’s self-exclusion program didn’t start until 2012, so our exclusion program was well before that. Today, the government requires casinos to train their front-tier staff for responsible gaming-related issues, but we go beyond that. We train 100 percent of our staff, be they casino-related, non-gaming related, admin staff or operation staff. We train every one of them.

Las Vegas Sands also has developed a global training program. We call it the Responsible Gaming Ambassador’s Training Program. Every year, we rotate and train about 100 staff members in each region. And this goes beyond the training that I mentioned, which is included as part of orientation training. It is eight hours of intensive university-level training, developed by University of Nevada, Las Vegas Professor Bo Bernhard. These team members are on the floor 24 hours a day, and they are there to see if any patrons may have a gaming disorder problem. If they see that, they will help and refer these customers to seek professional help.

We don’t replace the government. We are not treatment centers. We are not counseling experts. But we are there to help, and to provide help when customers need it.

Is there a cultural difference between what is considered problem gambling between Asian gamblers and American gamblers?

From a practitioner’s perspective, I would say people in the Asian culture don’t normally reach out for help. They are quite laid-back. So we’ve used a lot of community support. And the reason why we see training as so important is because Macau has about 600,000 population, with a working population of roughly 380,000. Of that, about 110,000 work in the gaming and hotel industry. So, 30 percent of the working population works in the gaming-related industry. If we train our staff to have high awareness of problem gaming behavior, they can reach out to people, and those people could be their family, their friends or someone they believe needs help.

Part of responsible gaming education is informing players about the odds of winning—that every game has a house edge. Do Asian gamblers understand that?

We as an operator design a lot of training programs for our staff where we mention about what is a game of chance. What is probability? What is the house advantage? So we help teach people to play with a sense of having fun. It is entertainment, instead of a tool to make money. In short, we help people make informed choices.

How much research is being done in Macau to understand problem gambling in the SAR?

My job requires me to do research regularly, to keep myself abreast of responsible gaming trends. And I must admit that I find much more information on Australia and Canada and the U.K. There aren’t too many studies that focus specifically on Asian people. There are scholars from universities in Macau who are now doing lot of research which is Macau-specific. But I do see opportunities to do more.

Do you think Macau is doing a good job at making sure that people gamble responsibly?

I think we are. There is always more that can be done, but Macau has been doing a lot. And I think the government cares, and the operators care, so that makes up a very good ecosystem.

Last year, the government did research to understand people’s awareness on what is meant by responsible gaming. The percentage has increased dramatically since just a few years ago. Over the last five, six years, it went up from single-digit awareness to last year, more than 60 percent of people are aware what is meant by responsible gaming. So yes, I would say Macau is keeping up.

Mike Donovan

The saga of the Revel/Ocean property in Atlantic City took a major upturn earlier this year when Mike Donovan, a former marketing executive at the Tropicana, was hired by the new owners, Luxor Capital, to lead the Ocean marketing team. Donovan has wide experience in Atlantic City and other jurisdictions, and has delivered some tried-and-true formulas to turn around the fortunes of the struggling casino. And it seems to be working, with the property posting the highest gross gaming revenue ever in June. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at Ocean in July.

GGB: What did you find when you first arrived at the property in terms of a marketing plan?

Donovan: Over the last 100 days, we’ve taken the property in a much different direction. When I got here at the beginning of March, the property had historically had good table games business, good non-gaming business, but it lacked slot business, which we all know is the core of every property in Atlantic City.

I saw several things that we were not doing or we were doing poorly. We weren’t communicating with the 1 million-plus people we had in the Revel database. We knew exactly who they were, we knew how much they spent the last time they were here, but we weren’t talking to them. We are now. And we’re talking to them in a very influential way. Before, they were getting weekly offers that were lower than other places in town. Now they’re getting daily offers that are better than anyplace in town.

So we’re combining a value piece with the exceptional product we have here, and people are responding.

What other things did you change?

Just from a physicality standpoint, we saw other improvements we could make. One of the complaints was that it was too big, too cavernous and you can’t find your way around. We installed simple-to-understand wayfinding signs that direct people easily. We put in a new elevator that makes it easier to get from the hotel to the casino, so you can get to the casino much faster. We built a separate promotions area that eases the burden on the main desk area, and made it easy to find. We added kiosks like most other Atlantic City casinos. So, we’ve addressed key deficiencies of the property and brought it up to a level that makes people comfortable.

Ocean has some great meeting and convention space. Is that a focus in the new regime as well?

Yes, and it’s getting easier the longer we’re open. The largest segment of your meetings book a year or two out, and with the uncertainty around the property before, they didn’t know if the place was going to be open that long. But now there’s a lot more certainty.

It’s always been a great setup for meetings with great rooms, accessibility and amenities. And now they have the understanding we’ll be here for a while.

Ocean has also been set up for great entertainment with Ovation Hall and the smaller venues.

How important is that for the property?

Incredibly important. The property is big, so you can definitely see a difference when there’s a major event going on. We’ve had entertainment in Ovation Hall pretty much every weekend since the spring and plan to continue with that for the rest of the year.

We have a great partnership with AEG Live where we’re beginning to get some big-name acts.

Food and beverage has always been an important element to this property. How have you begun to use it?

The property has always had great food and beverage—we need to tell more people about it, but it’s always been there. In some of the surveys we did, however, people complained that it was too expensive. Now we give weekly dining comps so people can come in every week, which softens that blow a little bit. And we’ve added some more casual dining options that are affordable, like a food court that will open soon. We’ve opened up Sky Café on the hotel lobby level, along with a coffee shop. We’ve got a frozen daiquiri bar on that level. So we’re starting to add components for the peak season.

Jane F. Bokunewicz

Jane F. Bokunewicz has made it her mission to examine how millennials respond to gambling. An associate professor of hospitality at Stockton University in Atlantic City, Bokunewicz previously released “The Millennial Entertainment Preference Study” in 2016. In July she released a new study on the gambling prevalence of college students at Stockton. The students were asked them if they gambled and if so what kinds of games they enjoyed playing. The study was commissioned by the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey to gauge if there’s been any dramatic change in gambling behavior of students in the wake of the legalization of sports betting. Bokunewicz spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at her offices at Stockton University in Atlantic City in July.

To obtain a copy of the study visit

Cynthia Hallet

Used to be, the only relationship between those advocating the elimination of smoking in casinos and the casino industry itself was bad. Protests and shaming were the tools of the supporters of non-smoking and were met by annoyance and avoidance from casino executives. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation has changed tactics, however. The group seeks to work with the industry to slowly remove smoking from the casino floor by designing methods to minimize the financial damage and maximize the health benefits. President and CEO Cynthia Hallet explains this strategy and how it’s working in today’s casino industry. She spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros from her offices earlier this year.

Joe Lupo

Joe Lupo spent 30 years with Boyd Gaming, most of it at the Borgata in Atlantic City, where he held a variety of senior positions. Lupo joined Hard Rock International in 2017 when he was appointed to lead Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, one of the most profitable casinos in the U.S. He was brought in to run Hard Rock Atlantic City in October 2018, just four months after the opening of the property, and has boosted revenues and cut costs using his extensive knowledge of the Atlantic City market. Lupo spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at his offices in the Hard Rock in July.

GGB: You just celebrated the first anniversary at Hard Rock Atlantic City. You’ve had some bumps along the way, some adjustments. Are you happy with the direction that the property is headed right now?

Joe Lupo: Yes, I’m really happy with the direction. Any time you open up a property, there’s going to be bumps, and Hard Rock worked

really hard to get it up and going, especially so quickly after purchasing the property. It was a lot of hard work for the team, and you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for doing it so quickly, and the property looks beautiful. But there’s growing pains that you have, understanding the market and things like that. Obviously, we opened the same day as Ocean, and you have two properties that came into a flat market, from just a pure casino gaming revenue standpoint.

I came on board about eight months ago, late October. And so during that time, we were able to look at the business over the winter. We put some things in place, and now, a couple months ago, we became No. 2 in casino revenue. And to do that before our year anniversary is a great milestone.

You started from scratch, basically, with your database.

That’s probably the toughest thing to do for a property, especially in a high-frequency market, where all the customers have loyalties. They’ve been going to those other properties, and they know the waitresses’ first names and have accumulated points. To draw a customer away from a loyal market is really difficult. But we’re probably gaining more new customers every day than any other property. It really takes time to build that database, and while we’re getting customers in, they’re still getting offers, and they might be staying at other properties, and we’re only seeing a part of their play.

You worked at the Borgata for a lot of years. What kind of advantage did that bring you when you came to Hard Rock Atlantic City?

Well, I know the market pretty well, that’s for sure. Coming from the No. 1 property across town for so long, we worked hard over there to figure it out. One of the things that we do here is that we develop all of our own promotions and look at our reinvestment. Everything about this property is done from a couple of offices. There is no direction from a corporation that says, “Do it this way.” There’s no team from Las Vegas, that are saying, “We should do this.”

We have some great team members from other properties, from Caesars, from Golden Nugget, from Borgata, that are giving us some other ideas. So we’re just taking a very aggressive approach. We realize we have to do that with a limited database. But, again, being in town, the entertainment aspect that obviously we had at Borgata, there was a lot of entertainment here. And having the biggest room in town gives us a big advantage over everybody.

Hard Rock has a unique corporate culture. After a year, how much do your team members get the Hard Rock philosophy?

It is unique, and I think we’re jelling. I don’t think we’re there yet, to be honest with you. I think it’s good that we have a lot of different perspectives from a lot of different entities. The same thing happened at the Borgata. We need to keep working at it. I think teamwork in the end will make us click.

As you come into the shoulder season, what are you doing to maintain the momentum you’re building this summer?

We have the biggest promotion this summer; we’re giving away a $1 million to one person. And that’s coming off our car-a-day in May. Who gives away a car every single day? But we guarantee that, and we’re really trying to raise the eyebrows.

What does it mean that your chairman, Jim Allen, is a native of the Atlantic City area?

Well, it’s not only Jim, but our other partners and owners are from New Jersey—Jack Morris, and Michael and Joe Jingoli. They’re very community-driven. I think the city needs to come together a little bit, and we need to work together, and we’re starting to do that with the North Beach initiative—Ocean, Resorts, Steel Pier, the Absecon Lighthouse and us and the Tennessee Avenue folks—who are revitalizing that street.

We’re trying to highlight the excitement that you find at this part of the Boardwalk. Overall, we need to ensure that we work together, create more infrastructure, organization and safety—and a clean city I think is really important.

Robert DeSalvio

Encore Boston Harbor opened on June 23 in Everett, Massachusetts, across the Mystic River from Boston. Formerly contaminated with over 100 years of chemicals, the site was cleaned up and restored by Wynn Resorts in a complicated but satisfying process. Bob DeSalvio, the president of the property, explains that process and the lengthy and sometimes contentious path to opening. He describes the bumps along the way, the design and construction process and the dedication of the Encore team members. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros in his office at Encore Boston Harbor in July.

Aaron Gomes

The first gaming operation of any kind was introduced in Virginia earlier this year with the opening of Rosie’s Gaming Emporium at Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent featuring historical horse racing devices (HHRs). Since then, two more Rosie’s have opened in other parts of Virginia.

Gaming veteran Aaron Gomes is COO of the company that owns and operates these parlors, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which also owns Del Lago casino in New York, Kansas Crossing in Kansas and Diamond Jacks in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Gomes spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at Colonial Downs in August.

GGB: Congratulations on the opening of the Rosie’s properties in Virginia. What has the response been?

Gomes: It’s been overwhelming. All the feedback has been very positive. We put a lot of money and effort into it, and it’s great to see this kind of response.

We now have three facilities open. In addition to Colonial Downs with 600 games, we opened a location in Vinton, outside of Roanoke, with 150 games, and just last month we opened one in Richmond with 700 games and have another 700 games scheduled for Hampton in the fall, and then a location in Chesapeake with another 700 games early next year.

So that will give you close to 3,000 games? And you’ve got approvals for 10 locations.

Yes, 3,000 is the limit that is approved through the temporary regulations, but we’ll be asking them to raise that cap as the regulations progress. And we do have the right to build 10 locations as long as we hold a referendum in those communities and get their approvals. Of course, the cap on the number of games would have to be raised in that case.

For those of us who have not seen or played an HHR, what’s the experience like? And are your customers new to gaming, or have they gambled somewhere else?

It’s similar to a Class II bingo game; it’s very similar in terms of time on device, payouts, hold percentage and more. The only difference is you’re not playing against the house; you’re playing against other players in a parimutuel pool. Other than that, the experience is very much like a traditional slot machine. The themes are similar, even down to a players club for the customers.

As for our players, it’s a combination of both. We have a lot of customers who have played elsewhere and are grateful to have their entertainment hobby closer to home. Then there are other players who are new to the market or have previously been horse racing fans and have fun playing the games.

What is the tax rate on these games?

The tax rate is actually a percentage of the handle. We pay about 1.25 percent of handle, which based on the hold of each machine is roughly 15 percent to 20 percent tax. And then we supplement the purses of the horse races here at Colonial Downs, which is about 6 percent or 7 percent of the revenue. And then we have a technology fee paid to the manufacturer which is another percentage of the revenue. When you blend it all together, the effective tax rate is around 35 percent.

The Virginia legislature recently considered a bill that would legalize casinos in the state but pulled it back to conduct a study. Where does that stand now?

There’s a lot of moving parts right now, especially when you add the Pamunkey tribe that recently received federal recognition. The state has commissioned a study by The Innovation Group about introducing gaming, the risks and benefits, so we believe that much of what the state decides to do with gaming will hinge on that study.